This October marks an important event for the company. 16 years ago we released the first version of one of our key products – GP Travel Hub. On this occasion we talked to the product team to learn more about the main purposes and functions of this product, as well as the plans for future growth.
– Hello guys;) Please tell us more about GP Travel Hub and the key functions performed by it.
Sergey: GP Travel Hub is a backend application, an aggregator of travel service suppliers, which provides customers with a unified interface to connect to these suppliers using XML APIs. Currently GP Travel Hub provides options to work with accommodations (incl. search, availability checking and booking), flights (search and book processes), excursions (incl. search and book of tickets to various guided tours, concerts, tournaments, etc.), transfers (search and book of shuttle services, e.g. from/to the hotel to/from the airport), vehicles (car rental services), railway tickets and insurance (both for search and book routines). In total, GP Travel Hub incorporates over 100 ready-made integrations, although not all of them are running LIVE for customers at the moment.
Roman: If you are a potential client and you plan to exchange travel data with multiple travel service providers, each with its own interface, – the Hub makes life much easier for you. It leaves just one thing for you to do: implement a single connection to its API interface. And all the other interactions with multiple suppliers are left for us to deal with. Sounds interesting? Talk to our sales then;)
– For historical background, we turn to Rodion Zhitomirsky, Chairman of the Board of GP Solutions. Hello, Rodion. Please tell us about the origins of GP Travel Hub: when it appeared, who created it and what’s the story behind its name?
Rodion: Hello;) The Hub was our first product provided for a large number of customers. It came before GP Travel Enterprise. There were several prior attempts to create our own product, but they were unsuccessful.
The concept of GP Travel Hub dates back to 2006. We noticed that many travel market players which work with one or several travel service providers actually want to connect more. We thought this was an opportunity and decided to build the Hub. And in fact, we named this project according to its main function – serving as a centralized routing point (‘hub’) connecting travel service providers with travel companies. Further along the way I elaborated this concept and designed the architecture.
Honestly speaking, the overall product idea is partially ‘a sneak peak’ from another provider’s technological solution running on an XSLT-based product line. It seemed convenient to go this way as at that time we had a large team of XSLT developers experienced in building supplier connectors. I remember that during the first years we redesigned the HUB three more times after building the initial connectors. We identified a few issues that came up with various suppliers. I’d also like to mention that the Hub is one of the most exemplary projects in terms of unit test coverage.
I am really happy that we have GP Travel Hub now;) Kudos to the entire product team and congrats on the project’s 16th birthday. If the Hub was a Bavarian teenager, it would qualify for a beer at Oktoberfest now;)
– How does the HUB interact with another GP Solutions product – GP Travel Enterprise?
Sergey: Basically, GPTE is one of our clients, and the most prominent one.
Roman: We are going strong together;) The Hub is a purely backend solution. GP Travel Enterprise is a turnkey platform for travel business automation with its own UI and a range of connections, including one for the Hub. When a client decides to go with GP Travel Enterprise + the Hub, there is no need for excessive time and money spent on custom development. And it is rather quick to go live. We work closely with GPTE, as most of our clients use it in combination with the Hub. But at the same time, we also have our own clients (using the Hub only).
These projects are progressing really well. Interested? Get in touch with the sales team;)
– What programming language(s) is GP Travel Hub built in?
Sergey: The core is in Java. The part governing provider modules is in XSLT. We use MySQL for static data storage, Kafka and MySQL – for dynamic data. The application has a micro-service architecture, microservices are running in Docker containers.
– Which version of GP Travel Hub is currently in development? Are you going to implement something new and exciting?;)
Sergey: Just two weeks ago release 6.7.0 went live, now we are stabilizing it. New suppliers and optimization of some crucial processes are planned for the next release;)
Roman: Now we are implementing a new excursion flow, which is set by markets. Also we are working on internal improvements. Interested? Well, you already know what to do;)
Yuliya VA: I will tell you about one of the developments for our next release. It relates to me directly;)
At the moment, while working with suppliers, the Hub does not allow any other characters for first and last name, except spaces and letters. Therefore, when booking services for tourists with a hyphen in their last name (the case with a double surname, like mine, for example) or an apostrophe (a common story among the French), we return validation errors.
We decided to fix this issue and permit hyphens and apostrophes. And I am very pleased about it as I’ve been coming across this issue quite a lot!;)
– Tell us about the team:) As we already know from previous interviews, you have a wonderful Lead Web Developer Sergey;) And who are the other members of GP Travel Hub team?
Yuliya D: Quite a lot can be said about each team member. It will be a little complicated to do it in short, but I will try;)
For starters, the Hub has two equally important tech leads – Roman Stelchenko and Sergey Gordiyevich.
We have a support specialist, Tatsiana Borodeyko – proud owner of a gorgeous shepherd dog and just a pretty girl.
Our great duo of testers fights hard for each release. Yuliya Pavlovich, who has recommended herself and is well-known as a Zumba teacher. And Vitaliy Zaitsev, who has just moved to sunny Wroclaw and is known as a tester who is constantly on the lookout for new Hub implementations and is going through tons of training to improve his professional skills.
We also have a large development team. Roman Stelchenko and Sergey Gordiyevich – true professionals, who have spent over 5 years at the company. By the way, they joined the team simultaneously. We already have a number of their photos in our archive titled “Through the years with the Hub”;)
There are also other developers. The Hub wouldn’t be the same without them. And there’s no need to repeat this – each specialist is a pro, we value every person very much and grow professionally alongside them. Egor Shalik is also among the oldies in the team;) Egor has excellent skills in crafting figurines that take lots of patient work with small objects. For example, I could hardly do this well, I just lack patience. Tatsiana Petukhova is the only team member residing in Lithuania. She spent some time in our GP Solutions’ Custom Development department, but returned to us. It’s hard to leave the Hub behind;) Milena Brilevskaya is the youngest on the team, but is truly talented, and not just in development. Believe me, it is worth listening to her singing! Nikita Rudoy is one of the most kind-hearted team members;) Sergey Serzhan and Ilya Eremkin are the newest engineers on the team, whom, unfortunately, I know least of all. But I’m sure that Ilya is a wonderful father to his two kids, while Sergey prefers the office to remote work and is not going to get back working from home;)
Yana Brilevskaya, PM/BA, was the savior for me when it comes to writing our documentation. I am a precisionist and admire beautifully written and painstakingly verified text. It was quite a challenge for Yana. First, lots of prior documentation had to be rewritten. Secondly, to do this she had to dig deeper into the tech side of things (we run backend development which usually brings about quite ‘specific’ documentation:)). She did an excellent job. I still admire it and don’t let anyone else run our documentation;) And her handmade photo albums created using scrapbooking technique are pure aesthetic admiration for me;) If you ever meet Yana, be sure to ask her about them. She won’t mind showing you the beauty she’s made.
And Yuliya Viten-Amos, of course. She still has a lot to learn. But the key thing here is that she mingled with the team well and contributes to it a lot by being a team player. Just like many in GP Travel Hub, she is creative, but with even more interests than anyone else: violin, piano, Chinese painting and language… I have no doubt that the Hub is in great hands.
Yuliya VA: I’ll add a little about our super team;)
Tatsiana Borodeyko is not your standard support specialist. Recently we entrusted Tatsiana with release notes management. And now we gradually engage her in business analysis. This not only helps to optimize managers’ work, but also helps Tatsiana grow into a full-fledged business analyst.
Yuliya Pavlovich and Vitaliy Zaitsev, QA Specialists, are a team of their own inside the Hub;) They work so smoothly and clearly that one can only wonder. The Hub’s bedrock!
Roman Stelchenko and Sergey Gordievich, Lead Developers, are the two ‘top lieutenants’ for the manager;) Why two of them? Because they are always right. Their opinion has the most expertise and is the most trustworthy. The final word is always theirs. There hasn’t been a day without someone coming to them for advice. They’ve been recently joining me on calls with suppliers and customers, because their participation and help are invaluable. Much love and respect to you, guys!;)
Egor Shalik, Tatsiana Petukhova, Milena Brilevskaya take the biggest load of regular day-to-day work. Not only are they engaged in development, but also keep an eye on less experienced colleagues and help with customer support. There is a separate support schedule for developers – they exchange shifts joining support specialists on duty.
Nikita Rudoy, Ilya Eremkin, Sergey Serzhan – the new generation of the Hub team that is quickly catching up to their senior colleagues;) It is nice and easy to communicate with them, because I am just getting to know the project and still miss a lot of valuable knowledge. Ignorance unites us;)
Yana Brilevskaya, PM/BA, – Good Fairy of the User Guide, Confluence’ Jedi, a Jira Master. And also just a very nice person. Now Yana is helping me a lot with the processes. And there are lots of useful and high-quality changes ahead of us.
Yuliya Denisenko, PM/BA, is a solid and stable central neural system of the product sending regular impulses to all team members;) My mentor, colleague, guardian – and many, many other capacities that just won’t fit for description in just a single interview. Now Yuliya handed over almost all of her responsibilities to me and I can only admire how she coped with her work – truly hardworking and professional.
And a few words about myself to add up. I’ve been with the Hub for a little over a year, but I’m already getting the feel of what “part of the crew, part of the ship” really means. The manager’s job is not easy. But the support of my colleagues, the sense of reliance they give help me day by day. Here at the Hub I learnt what teamwork is.
Yana: Let me jump in too;) Everyone is too shy to write about themselves, so I’ll probably add a few lines about our wonderful managers – the two Yuliyas. Yuliya Denisenko and Yuliya Viten-Amos are the two people who try to make the work comfortable and interesting for everyone, guard the team from customer hesitations and solve any issues that arise. All Hub employees know they are under good protection. In many ways, this lays the foundation and sets the tone for teamwork. Being a manager on other projects I know how important this is. So I’ve always tried to apply the same style. Without these two managers, the product wouldn’t be what it’s become. Our Yuliyas are completely different from one another. Yet together they form a super team. I will miss Yuliya Denisenko when she leaves the company. But let us all wish Yuliya Viten-Amos not to worry, she will definitely manage to run things on her own.
– What is it like to work when there are two PMs in the team and both named Yuliya? Have there been any funny incidents already?:D
Julia D: In fact, there are even three Yuliyas among us;) The name was quite popular in our childhood, so for me, it’s a pretty known issue;)
Yuliya VA: During customer calls we are being addressed as Yuliya&Yuliya. This leads me to recall the Jonson&Johnson baby shampoo ads every single time;) Generally, as you may have noticed, we have three Yuliyas, two Tatsianas, and two Sergeys on the team. We haven’t quite figured out what to do with this yet. And we get confused when addressing each other quite a lot;)
– As far as we know, you have one of the most united and friendly teams. Tell us, what is the secret behind this?
Yuliya D: We solve all work-related issues together. We don’t judge who is right and who is wrong – we discuss mistakes and find solutions as a team. Anyone can make a mistake. It is critical to discuss what to do and avoid repeating them again.
Yuliya VA: The project was definitely lucky to recruit people who are friendly, well-balanced and capable of maintaining constructive communication with one another. Communication is the most important thing that glues teams together.
Yana: I think that any successful project is about friendly people and a manager who supports and inspires them. You always need people who are proactive and “full of beans” to start something that others can support. GP Travel Hub has always had such employees. It would not be the same without them.
– Now the Hub team is split between several locations in two different time zones. Does this somehow affect interaction and performance?
Yuliya D: I think no, this does not affect performance in any way. But it affects team building a lot. Many are missing our in-person meetups and hangouts, especially those who have been working on the project for over two years.
Yuliya VA: There is always a feeling of incompleteness at team building parties. We miss our colleagues living abroad now. Also, it is harder for those in Poland to wake up in the morning. They have to do it an hour earlier, and soon it will have to be even two;)
Yana: Probably, newcomers who joined GP Travel Hub during the pandemic and never attended our legendary hangouts might think that the team buildings online and offline are still fun, but… they do not know how it was before. I have a dream of putting the whole Hub team back together. I believe that one day it will come true!
– If you have open vacancies on the project, then it will be very appropriate to share them;)
Yuliya VA: At the moment, I solemnly declare the Hub is 100% fully staffed!;)
А blitz for PM/BAs! Let’s compare the answers of Yuliya and Yuliya;)
– iOS or Windows?
Yuliya D: iOS
– Quiz or quest?
Yuliya D: None of them.
Yuliya VA:Crossword puzzle;) To be honest, it doesn’t matter where to blunt;)
– Call or text message? Why?
Yuliya D: Call. It is faster and gives more confidence that everyone understands everything correctly.
Yuliya VA: Text message. There are lots of calls, sometimes you want peace and quiet;)
– Smart casual outfit at the office or plaid and slippers remotely?;)
Yuliya D: The whole team at the office once a month! And remote work the remaining time;)
Yuliya VA:Plaid and slippers remotely. And with cats.
– Several words that describe your team;)
Yuliya D: This is the Hub! (our team’s chant for several years and it pretty much says it all)